Monday, February 14, 2011

A License to Wed

Happy Valentine’s Day to all you music lovers and faithful blog readers.  In honor of the day, today’s post is fairly short and sweet (yes, pun intended) and features the marriage certificate of my great-grandparents, G. Oliver Riggs and Islea Graham Riggs.

I love the picture on the certificate, with the cupids flying above the heads of the bride and groom as they stand in what appears to be a courtroom.  Note also that Islea’s name is misspelled, and someone wrote it in correctly above the misspelling.

G. Oliver and Islea were married in Aledo, Ill., on Dec. 22, 1898, at the home of Islea’s parents, William and Flora Bassett.  It was the day before Islea’s 24th birthday; G. Oliver was 28 years old.  Not surprisingly, music was part of the event.  The bridal party descended the stairs to the strains of the wedding march, played by Dr. Alexander Rommel, the director of the Iowa Wesleyan Conservatory of Music and a friend of G. Oliver’s. 

Because I don’t know my fabrics or flowers well, I have trouble picturing this, but the wedding announcement says Islea wore embroidered mousseline de soie over white silk and carried a bouquet of Bride’s roses and Maiden Hair ferns.  Her bridesmaid and sister, Ethel Graham, wore chiffon over pink silk.  No mention was made of G. Oliver’s attire, but the newspaper does note that he was attended by Prof. Ed L. Roth of Mt. Pleasant.

After the ceremony, a wedding supper was served to the 80 guests.  This leads me to believe the house must have been of a decent size, to accommodate such a crowd on a December day.  Prof. Richards of Burlington, who was Islea’s piano teacher for many years, played a piano solo, and Islea’s aunt Bessie Bassett (who was more like a cousin, since they were the same age), was one of three vocal soloists.

The day after the wedding, G. Oliver’s parents, Jasper and Rebecca Riggs, hosted a reception at their home in nearby Joy, Ill.  Then the newly married couple left for Crookston, where G. Oliver had moved a few months earlier to organize and direct the city band.

It must have been both exciting and scary for Islea to leave her family and friends in Aledo, where she had lived all her life, except for the months she spent studying piano in Chicago.  The newspaper described her as “exceedingly popular in musical and social circles” and “a pianist of much ability” who would be greatly missed by her friends and pupils.

Of G. Oliver, it said, “He is as perfect a gentleman as he is a thorough musician.  This paper joins in wishing him continued success in his new home and in wishing for him and his charming bride a long and happy married life.’’

I like to think of them at this time in their life together, when they were young, ambitious and full of dreams.  I am also intrigued by the story of how they got together, but I will save that explanation for another post.


  1. And I'm intrigued that Jasper and Rebecca Riggs lived in Joy, Illinois and your name is Joy.

    Do you know if you were named Joy in part because of this or was it simply a happy coincidence?

  2. It's just a weird - happy - coincidence. My dad didn't know until we started the research project. Another interesting name coincidence is that G. Oliver was born in Louisa County, Iowa.

    It would have been really weird if we'd named our sons Crookston and Havre.